Giant Alebrije Parade

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I was most fortunate to have to work in Mexico City on Friday October 18th. The reason? Because the following day was the Desfile de Alebrijes Monumentales, a parade of gigantic, whimsical and fantastical wooden folk art pieces made from papier maché.

This year at the commencement of the parade the giant alebrijes were named a Mexican cultural heritage—the only form of folk art unique to the old Federal District. Since they came to life from the imagination of Pedro Linares in the 1930s, a couple of pueblos in Oaxaca have made names for themselves by carving alebrijes out of copal wood. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The parade included more than TWO HUNDRED handmade, monumentally sized alebrijes in fantastical shapes and colors. I was psyched to be able to photograph them in front of the cathedral and with the Palace of Fine Arts as a backdrop. After the several hour parade they “parked” the alebrijes along Reforma Avenue, and thousands more people were able to admire their beauty.

Many of the artists marched in the parade together with their works, as did many of the “hands” that helped build the incredible pieces. They honest to God took my breath away! What a great way to spend a weekend with girlfriends!

On the other side of La Reforma was a huge exhibition of skulls, called “MexiCráneos,” also very cool. The cempasúchil flowers were all out. I was excited to take photos of them with the Angel de la Independencia, but she is covered with scaffolding and under rehabilitation, and the flowers were full of thousands of people. So much for those gorgeous, quiet, no-people photos with the Angel in her glory!

 

 

 

Humble Beginnings Don’t Hold Him Back!

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+ The Masculine Form (project in development)
Photos: @santiago_barreiro @insidenatgeo #insidenatgeo

Most every society worldwide seems to be suffering a breakdown in the social fabric these days, a rise in corruption and violence, a loss of the values that make individuals and our communities healthy.

Maestro Cuahutémoc Nájera—the director of Mexico’s National Ballet Company—and his wife, Maestra Carolina Rios, strongly believe in the power of dance to strengthen communities and build strong, healthy, disciplined and principled individuals. Luckily for us, they live here and see dance as a tool to secure a better future for Mazatlán and México. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The maestros shared with me a post by es+Cultura that I found to be extremely powerful, and I have translated it for you below:

“Seven years ago the priest told Aaron’s grandma, Magda, ‘get him out of that ballet; the kids there become gay.” To avoid conflict she agreed, though she never followed through, because her grandson’s dream was to be a dancer and she was going to support him.

Aaron de Jesús Márques is one of the talents discovered by a program (PROVER) that seeks to promote dance in the city of Córdoba, in the state of Veracruz, giving scholarships to boys from complex social contexts. If the boy has needs and the desire, they pay for his studies, transportation, equipment and food for eight years, eight hours a day. The low enrollment of men in the private academy of Martha Sahagún was the impulse for this project, which now has various generations promoting the talent and diversity of Veracruz.

When he was barely seven years old Aaron didn’t even know what ballet was, in fact, the term didn’t sound familiar, but when the opportunity presented itself he didn’t hesitate even a minute to run up to the teacher who conducted the auditions to show her his physical conditioning. Months later when he’d begun his training, he understood that what his body was really asking him for was to dance ballet, and now no one would get in his way.

Aaron lives with his grandmother, or better said, his mother, as that’s what he likes to call her. She raised him once his Dad died and his biological mother emigrated for a better life economically. Magda supported the family. She was responsible for feeding, taking care of and giving life to the dreams of her grandson. The career of a classical ballet dancer involves a lot of dedication and discipline; it is a family project and in most cases requires the moral support of a feminine head of the household.

Classical dance gave the boy a stylizing manner to move his body, it proposed a language in which it wasn’t necessary to use impact and force like so many other disciplines. Aaron dances to express himself without words, to liberate himself from the structure that questions, violates and judges masculine feelings.

The exercise of classical western dance has implicated from its beginnings situations of violation and exclusion, it has generated negative stereotypes against men who pursue this discipline as a way of life. The hegemonic precepts around what it means to “be a man” in Latin American culture tend to determine how ballet is seen as art. In this 21st century, respect for the male dancer still hasn’t penetrated deeply into society, where machismo and its prejudices only put pride in “manly” sports . With this line of reasoning, dance is habitually associated with femininity. In this sense, there are unequal conditions for dancers, with men playing subordinate roles. This conception brings with it endless social conflicts. Today’s man tries to feel, express and free himself from established obligations (to procreate, provide, protect). However, society insists on assigning gender roles when and where they should not be. Dance in and of itself should not divide, distinguish or bias.

Aaron and some of his colleagues, plus his teacher, will be here in Mazatlán on Sunday, 17th November, performing in the Angela Peralta Theater at 6:00 pm, along with principal dancers from Mexico’s two best ballet companies: Ballet de Monterrey and the National Bellas Artes. Get your tickets at the box office now or WhatsApp Carolina at 52-1-669-941-2550; the performance benefits DIF Mazatlán (local families in need).

In the video below, Maestro Nájera tells us a bit about Aaron’s terrific program in Cordoba, Veracruz, where for the past ten years street kids have been given a new lease on life and a future in professional dance through educational and dance scholarships with amazing results.

Carolina dedicates herself to teaching young students; she owns and runs a dance school up in the marina. In the video below, she talks to me about the ways she has witnessed dance helping her students to be stronger, healthier, with higher self esteem, more cooperative and disciplined, and her plans for programming in the public spaces of Mazatlán.

Personal Invite to 2 Art Events

I hope you’ll join me for two events, both to be held a couple of blocks from one another in Centro Histórico on Friday, November 22nd.

Book ReadingThe first will be a reading from the book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats. Edited by Janet Blaser—who will facilitate the event—the book is a terrific read for anyone thinking about life abroad or already living it. Local residents Susie Morgan, Nancy Seelye, Lisa Lankins and yours truly will be reading from our chapters.

Please join us at El Recreo, Constitución 209, from 3:00 – 5:00 pm on Friday Nov. 22, 2019 for the book event. The event requires registration, and will have a 50 peso or so fee to cover the venue rental.

Magic of Black and White

Then, have a nice dinner somewhere and join us again at 7:00 pm for the very first group art exhibit that I have curated! It will be a photo show entitled, The Magic of Black and White. If you click “Going” on the Facebook link, it will remind you so you don’t miss this terrific opening. Participating photographers include Alwin van der Heiden, Lucila Santiago, Marcopolo Amarillas, Christian Lizárraga, and yours truly.

The photo exhibit will open on Friday, Nov. 22, at 6:30 pm in Baupres Gallery, next to Casa Haas on Heriberto Frías, across from Hector’s. There will be wine and hors d’oeuvres. The show will continue every day through 21st December, 2019. I very much hope that I’ll see you and your friends there!

Please help me pass the word about both of these events. Be sure to put them in your calendar so you don’t miss out! They’ll both be a lot of fun, and you’ll be supporting and encouraging your creative neighbors and friends.

The Sand Man Daniel Fermín

DSC_5685-HDR©Remember when Mazatlán had frequent sand sculpture contests? I do; I absolutely LOVED them!

Enter a young man from Zihuatanejo, Daniel Fermín, who currently studies visual arts in Morelia. He is in Mazatlán from now through Christmas, and is making his living via the tips we give him in exchange for enjoying his sand art.

Daniel was making a different sand sculpture every day, starting at 6 am and ending at sunset. On Wednesday he made a giant catrina; on Thursday a sand castle. He tells me he may keep the castle up for a while, even though castles are not his favorites. But he says he makes better tips with castles because the public seems to prefer them to other designs. Personally, the photo he had of an octopus he sculpted was my favorite. I asked him if he’d do that here, and he wouldn’t commit. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

He asks that if you go to admire his work and take photos that you please leave him a little something to help keep him fed. I think that the major hotels in town should commission Daniel to personalize a sculpture for them and their guests, and do photo ops! Don’t you think, local empresarios??? The guy who rents umbrellas is helping him out, and a local family is graciously putting him up.

Daniel can be found on the beach below the Fisherman’s Monument. Be sure to check out him and his creations from time to time through the rest of the year.

Below are a few more pics that I couldn’t resist taking during our visit. I hope you enjoy them.

Must-See Secret in Vegas

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Photo from Turrell’s website

If you happen to travel through Las Vegas you really need to see Akhob, an incredible light art installation by the renowned James Turrell. Photographers, designers—anyone who works with light and color—as well as anyone interested in perception, psychology, brain science or spirituality will delight in this space. It is amazing, completely immersive and otherworldly, and it’s free. But you will need a reservation—only six people at a time are permitted into the installation every half hour.

Photography is not permitted once you’ve entered Akhob, so photos in this post are borrowed from the Internet—if they are yours please let me know so I can credit you! Two-dimensional photography does not do justice to this multi-sensory experience that bathes the visitor in gentle yet vibrantly colored light. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

First you enter a very dark reception room, designed to let your eyes calm and adjust. Two attendants dressed in white provide brief instructions such as don’t touch the walls (they stain easily), no food or drink, no photography, and ask you to sign a three-page release of liability form.

From there you walk down a dark corridor to a foyer at the base of a staircase. There is a round portal at the top of the staircase, making it seem like the entrance to a temple. Six chairs along the wall, three at either end, are where you will leave your belongings and remove your shoes, putting disposable shoe covers on your feet.

One at a time, you will be asked to ascend the stairs—there is no handrail—and enter the installation. One attendant goes first, and the second brings up the rear. Each person can begin going up once the last person has stepped over the portal. It’s eerie entering the chamber, hard to see the step into the portal, and hard to know how deep the step over is.

Once inside the portal the floor is flat (though it did feel angled), so walking around is easy. There are three chambers, Turrell calls them “ganzfelds” or “light fields,” each with a circular passage connecting it to the other. At the far end you look into the third chamber: a drop off into what seems to be a void. Of course no one may step beyond the second chamber. There is a sensor in place that, we were told, is hooked up to an alarm, to prevent people from falling.

Most people seem drawn to that second chamber, from which you marvel looking into the third. Subtly changing colors of blue, green, pink, red, orange, purple and yellow envelop you in the illusion of fog, provide you the experience of flying or floating, of peace and stillness, of being in the womb, in heaven or in space. Walls, floors and ceilings disappear and reappear; space and distance bend and blend. It is disorienting and liberating, relaxing and energizing. For me the experience was very much like meditation.

The color comes, apparently, from three places. Inside the round doorways of the first two chambers are circular lines of light that change color, while there is also an unseen light source from the third chamber. They blend together seamlessly to make edges and distinctions disappear.

From that second chamber you can also look back on the first. I would have sworn that the door at the top of the stairs, the one through which we entered, was closed. It was black and flat, locked off. But when I approached it to verify, it was, indeed, still open. I could see the stairway, the chairs and our worldly goods below, right where we had left them.

W Magazine describes Akhobin this way:

“For decades Turrell has created meticulous environments where the interplay of light and space renders basic perception a transcendental experience. Monumentalized as a master of quietude and subtlety, his work is surprisingly at home in Sin City. As a neon playground awash in a sea of nothingness, the extreme juxtaposition of barren beauty and unchecked consumerism affords his destabilizing projects maximum impact on over-stimulated tourists.”

Visitors are requested to maintain silence inside Akhob. The silence and stillness are a powerful aspect of the experience. You will be standing the entire time; I can see that chairs would ruin the visual cleanliness, and staying mobile adds to the full experience.

You’ll find Akhobon the upper level of the Louis Vitton store at Crystals at City Center—very private and secret. To make a reservation, call (702) 730-3150. Address is 3720 Las Vegas Blvd. S. NOTE: Reservations are normally booked six to eight weeks ahead, but they do have occasional openings if you’re lucky. They are open Thursday through Monday, 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Children under age 15 are not allowed.

We had seen and enjoyed another Turrell installation, The Way of Color, one of his numerous Skyspaces, at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas a couple of years ago. Akhobwas night and day better. While the Skyspace plays with your perception and is fascinating, Akhobfeels much more transcendental, transporting your mind and spirit to other realms.

If you can’t get in to see Akhob, you can view another Turrell exhibit at Crystals, built into the ceiling of the monorail platform. You can view the rotating light on the platform itself, or from inside the shopping center through the geometric Libeskind oculi that are cut into the walls.

As for me, the next place I want to go is Roden Crater, once it opens, located in the Painted Desert of northern Arizona where I grew up. Turrell is transforming this cinder crater into a light, color and sky-viewing space reminiscent of the ancients but updated with modern technology.